On Thursday, Dean Shareski led me to believe that if I attended all 5 days of EdWeek SJSD 2012 that I would be entered into a drawing for a free cruise. Sadly, I didn’t win a cruise, but the consolation prize was pretty cool, too…spending a day in the life as a student in Diana Laufenderg’s social studies class at SLA.
After 4 great previous days of teacher PD at Ed Week, it was a unique experience to have the tables turned and become the student and watch a master teacher like Diana take us through a typical unit in her class.
The lesson started with Diana asking the class to throw out some current events we’ve been noticing in the news. This is how she starts every class. What a great way to build relevance with her students! Let the students throw out things they are seeing on TV, social media, internet and use that as the starting point for the lesson. We discussed such topics as the Sandusky trial, the bullied bus monitor, and the protests in Egypt. For each topic, Diana took the time to find primary source documents that discussed what was happening. She also facilitated a discussion that always brought the current event back to a similar historical event to show its relevance to her class.
Diana structures her class around thematic units instead of your typical chronological social studies class. This way, no matter what current even is brought up, it usually has a tie into something they are covering in class. After all, history repeats itself, right?
Our first assignment was a test!!! We students took a 10-question citizenship test to see how much we knew. Sadly, after many years of schooling, I wouldn’t have passed the test to become a US citizen. Most of the “students” in the class scored very similar to me. This was a great way to illustrate the need for the content she was going to be teaching us. Another great way to hook students into buying in to the curriculum by showing them how much they don’t know and how much they need to learn.
We then completed a collaborative assignment where we had to describe America using 10 adjectives. We all submitted our 10 adjectives to Diana who compiled them into a wordle graphic. This showed us the most common reoccurring words the students in the class picked. (ours is pictured below) A follow-up discussion led by Diana let the class share some views about why those words kept reoccurring with everyone. She also showed us some examples from her past classes so we could see we weren’t much different than them.
Next, we did a unique riff on the 6-word story idea called Picturing America. Diana challenged us to find a picture that depicted our view of America. However, instead of writing our own 6-word story for that picture, we had to let other people do it. We used a class protocol that Diana affectionately called speed-learning. Similar to speed-dating , we sat across the table from each other and rotated partners every 3 minutes. While we were seated with our partner, we had to show each other our picture and let the other person write the 6-word story for our picture. This was a very cool spin on the project that also created some amazing discussions about perspective and how our own views are not the views of our peers in the room. This would have many applications in a class of just about any discipline.
After our turn as students was over, Diana spent some time with us looking at some of the projects her students at SLA have created over the years. We had some great discussions about how to scaffold assignment projects in a class so that you allow students to create projects that fit your curriculum goals but also leave room for creative student expression. Diana stressed the importance of provoking student thought and problem-solving instead of giving them the right answer, which is the game many students have learned to play.
As an example of the types of learners we hope to be inspiring, we watched one of the greatest YouTube videos I’ve seen in a long time. If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself to the next 4:06 and watch Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap and it’ll brighten your day.
We ended our day by having a great discussion about the importance of reflection in the classroom. There were lots of great ideas shared within my small group and also within the whole group about how to make reflection impactful for kids. Being able to have an honest discussion about what you’re learning, how you’re learning, your struggles, and your successes is vitally important for student growth.
As I write my final blog post about the week, I’m also struck by how important reflection has been for me this week to digest all the amazing PD I gained from attending all 5 days of EdWeek SJSD 2012.